Shukokai Karate, translated liberally means “Way for All”. A more literal translation breaks the name down to three parts which are: “Shu” meaning “Training”; “Ko” meaning “Many people meeting, a crossing or intersection, to come together”; and “Kai” meaning ”Association, to train under one roof”. Shukokai is a traditional system of Okinawan Karate, which has evolved from careful analysis of the dynamics and principles of traditional karate. The lineage of Shukokai can be considered a direct descendant of its’ parent style, Shito Ryu.
Shito Ryu Karate is accredited to Soke Kenwa Mabuni (1890-1952). Mabuni, like many of the old karate masters, was descended from the Okinawan warrior class, or bushi. Mabuni family members had served Okinawan lords for hundreds of years. At age 13, Mabuni became a student of Yasutsune “Ankou” Itosu (1830-1915). Itosu taught Okinawan Shuri-Te and was credited as the master who developed the Pinan Kata and was instrumental in organizing early karate into the Okinawan school system. Itosu himself was a student of one of Okinawa’s most famous karate masters, Sokon Matsumura (1792-1887), the forefather of Shorin-Ryu.
During his teens, Mabuni also studied under Kanryo Higa(ashi)onna (1853-1915), a teacher of Naha-Te, a particularly Chinese influenced karate style. Mabuni was introduced to Higaonna by his friend, Chojun Miyagi (who went on to become the founder of Goju-Ryu karate). At this time, Mabuni was a highly respected police officer, and often visited Japan following Funakoshi’s introduction of karate there in 1922.
In 1929, Mabuni relocated permanently to Osaka. Just after he took up residence there, the governing body for martial arts in Japan, the Butokukai, enforced that all karate schools should officially register by their style name. Initially, Mabuni named his style Hanko, meaning ”half-hard”, but by the early 1930s, he was using the name Shito-Ryu. Mabuni lived in Osaka until 1952, devoting his life to promoting his Shito-Ryu Karate. It was during this lifetime that one of his students, Chojiro Tani was to further refine the style, into Shukokai Karate.
Chojiro Tani was born in Kobe, Japan in 1921 and began studying the art of Karate during Junior high School at the Gojo School of Karate. He entered Doshisha University in 1940 and furthered his studies of karate under the direction of Ken-na Mabuni. Upon receiving his Menko (Teachers Certificate) from Kenwa Mabuni, Sensei Tani began teaching Tani-Ha Shito Ryu at his own Dojo. He proudly hung a wood carved sign above the entrance which said Shukokai -”Way for All”. He also organized clubs in Kyoto University and Osaka College of Economics, Tottiro University, and Kobe University Medical School.
Outside of Japan, Tani’s style spread mainly in Europe (Kofukan International). Shigeru Kimura, one of the students of Chojiro Tani then took Shukokai to Africa and the United States, while Yoshinao Nambu continued to teach in Europe. When Sensei Tani retired as Chief Technical Director he appointed Shigeru Kimura, 9th Dan, (1941—1995) as his successor.
Sensei Kimura had won the Japan All-Style Championship two years in a row. After retiring from active competition, Sensei Kimura established a reputation of master level Shukokai Karate throughout the world.
Being a direct descendant of Shito-Ryu, Shukokai inherits the characteristics of both the Naha-te and Shuri-te styles of Okinawan Karate. While Shukokai shares many of the same punches, kicks, and
blocks found in other popular styles of Karate, it is in how these are executed that sets Shukokai apart.
Sensei Tani and Sensei Kimura made their greatest contributions to the style by continually refining each technique to the highest degree, essentially redefining the basics that had been practiced for centuries.
Both made the study of body mechanics their primary focus with the end result being the delivery of the greatest impact with the least amount of effort.
Another defining characteristic is that each technique must be combat effective. Sensei Kimura believed that a technique, no matter how powerful, was useless if it could not be delivered under combat situations. His philosophy was that the outcome of a confrontation should be decided in a single technique, one hit one kill, which was the traditional way of the Samurai. This drove him to continually modify and test his technique throughout the course of his life with the end result being the traditional, yet combat effective style of Karate we call Shukokai. Every technique executed within Shukokai has these principles at its’ core.
Used with permission from Kimura Shukokai International.